Our Turn: NCSS staff, past and present, take a look back
By KRISTIN HIGGINS
Since Our Turn articles have been part of the NCSS culture since our inception, please indulge me in submitting the final one from our little school. Below, you will read words from past and present educators. Thank you for your support and acceptance over the last twelve years.
NCSS has been part of my heart and soul since our first meeting in 2004 when a group of SDR staff members got together to talk about creating a school that would offer a different learning experience for students. Since then, we’ve met and helped hundreds of students learn and discover themselves through project based learning by offering them autonomy and choice in project creation. Personally, I’ve grown as an educator, as a colleague, and as a community member and I cherish my years at NCSS because of that.
“Sails are just like wings
The wind can make em sing
Songs of life songs of hope
Songs to keep your dreams afloat
I’m gonna build me a boat
With these two hands
It’ll be a fair curve
From a noble plan
Let the chips fall where they will
Cause I’ve got boats to build”
These lyrics from a Jimmy Buffett song called “Boats to Build” echoed in my head from 2005 when we established NCSS to 2011 when I retired. After years in traditional education, I was ready to sail “uncharted charter waters.” I wanted to offer students a different kind of education, a different way to learn, and I was willing to help build it myself. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done, but I think we were pretty successful. You’d have to ask the kids who sailed with us. I’m very sad to see our lovely ship dry docked, but I trust there will be other ways for our voyagers to reach their destination, other songs to keep their dreams afloat.
I am proud to have been a part of the creation of NCSS and on its staff. I am very sad about its closing because I believe its alternative delivery of instruction benefited kids for many reasons. NCSS wasn’t for everyone, but the kids who did attend thrived and grew. The personal relationships between adults within and outside the school, and our kids, added much depth to the educational experience. The opportunity to individualize instruction helped our kids be successful. The dedication of the staff to the kids and each other was remarkable and unforgettable. It was a great experience for me and I am grateful to the SDR for supporting NCSS for as long as it could. Marie
What a magnificent adventure! In 2006, I embarked on a journey that endured for ten years of my working career. The project-based learning opportunity I was part of helped mold the lives of many Rhinelander area students. They learned how to be active learners of information. They also learned responsibility and how they individually contribute to the society in which they live. The relationships I have established and nurtured with both colleagues and students will surely last a lifetime. I’m proud to have been part of Northwoods Community Secondary School (NCSS). In late 2016, I was immeasurably devastated when my journey with NCSS reached its inevitable end, but as Dr. Seuss once wrote, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Rhinelander was lucky to have such an opportunity for its children.
My time at NCSS was full of supportive colleagues, drive from independent/often stubborn and determined students, and was an outlet of teaching and learning for me to grow as an educator/life-long-learner. I appreciate the opportunity NCSS gave to students who deserved a scope and sequence that fit their needs as a learner. The overall atmosphere was positive, unconforming, and the unorthodox way of teaching became a catalyst for change in education. And for that, I will be forever grateful.
After quite a few years of teaching I started to think about what my vision of the ideal school would look like. When I started to learn about NCSS, project based learning and multi-age advisories, it was closer to my vision than anything I had seen. Nothing is perfect and NCSS was not exactly what my vision was but I felt very fortunate to have had the opportunity to teach in that environment. It was interesting, enlightening, humbling and I am very glad I was given the chance to be a part of NCSS.
Anyone that is familiar with NCSS knows what an amazing educational experience it is for students. The teachers are some of the most passionate people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. I want to thank everyone that had a hand in influencing students in such a positive way.
I sought to help build the 21st Century school that I wanted my own children to attend. A school that was holistic in approach, focused on enhancing community and using real time questions, problem solving and interdisciplinary formating in the learning process.
The memories that I have from NCSS are ones I will cherish forever. The staff, students, and parents were caring, friendly, compassionate, and driven. As my first teaching position this environment made it hard for other positions to match the incredibly high standard that NCSS set in my mind. Thank you to everyone in the NCSS family!
NCSS was my first teaching job. I quickly learned what it felt like to teach in a place where staff and students truly felt like a family. I also quickly learned what it meant for students and staff to move out of their comfort zones. I feel grateful to have witnessed an immense amount of growth among the students as they pushed themselves out of their comfort zones. This is where true learning takes place. As Albert Einstein once said, “A ship is always safe at shore but that is not what it’s built for.” I feel grateful to have been a part of NCSS because it shaped and molded my teaching philosophy in such a powerful way.
Laura Tooke Effinger:
I’m so grateful that I was able to be a part of such an amazing school. The relationships I’ve made with students, parents, staff and involved community members are so important to me. I have grown so much as an educator from my training and work with NCSS.
NCSS was developed by a number of passionate educators who realized that the traditional education system was not allowing all students to maximize their potential. The PBL educational model that we designed was replicated by schools all around the State. Even Educators from Japan came to visit and learn from NCSS. Currently the PBL educational model is being integrated in schools around the world with great success. It is a personalized, individualized, model that requires ongoing modifications and continual nurturing to be successful and sustainable. NCSS teachers became experts at diversifying learning to meet the needs of an ever changing population of students. The lives of many children were significantly improved because of the opportunities that NCSS provided for them. I consider the closing of NCSS to be a great loss to the district. This becomes increasingly more evident to me as I work with and become more aware of large school districts in states around the country, including Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, etc., who have adopted PBL curriculums for all of the students. I know many SDR teachers have integrated PBL into their curriculum, and I hope more continue to do so, because it is an authentic, personalized approach that can definitely help students stay engaged and successful.
I don’t no where to begin. I am so glad that I got to be a part of this wonderful school. The relationship I had with the students and staff are priceless.
NCSS was my first teaching job in Wisconsin during its inaugural year after moving from Texas. The wonderful staff not only welcomed me with open arms to their educational community but also helped me adjust to a new community. My two favorite student activities I remember where using math skills to redesign the staff work room and taking students to an elementary school to be reading buddies which really helped build the students own reading confidence who reading did not come easy. I wished I could have stayed much longer at NCSS than I was able too! A very special place filled with people who had a passion for student success.
NCSS was an amazing place to teach. I will look fondly on the team based teaching, the caring students, and the positive culture. I am very grateful to be a part of students’ learning, a wonderful teaching team, and a great adventure. Thanks to all who contributed to this wonderful school.
Liz Van Remortal:
When I think about NCSS I have nothing but amazing memories. NCSS is not only the first school that I had the opportunity to teach at, but it has helped me form lasting relationships with staff, students, and the community. NCSS opened its doors and allowed me to explore many different teaching techniques and ways to help students learn that I will continue to use as an educator in the district. I have loved not only teaching our students and watching them grow academically and into independent young adults, but that I had the chance to learn alongside them as well.
NCSS has been such a rewarding experience. It has allowed me to build relationships that will forever remain in my heart. I have been given opportunities to be a part of so many students’ lives. They have blessed me with their laughter, their tears, the many conversations, as well as watching them grow both academically and physically. I will miss them all, but am looking forward to what the future has to offer. To my friends and colleagues: my love to you all both past and present and best of luck to you all.